The Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded into a gritty and hard-hitting corner via Netflix, where we got the acclaimed Daredevil reboot series, with three other Marvel heroes (Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist) all set to follow with their own Netflix shows.
But while Daredevil has found its rhythm (with an exciting Punisher storyline coming in season 2), and Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are establishing an intersecting mythos (the two heroes were an item and had a daughter in the comics), Iron Fist has remained off the radar, with only a few small hints that the character will eventually appear in the MCU. Now, word is that Marvel is still having trouble bringing Iron Fist to the screen, for several key reasons.
BMD is the site claiming to have sources close to this RUMOR. Here’s the breakdown of the issue that could be holding up Iron Fist’s progression:
In the comics, Iron Fist is Danny Rand, son of an explorer who discovers the mystical city of K’un-L’un, which only appears on Earth every ten years. During an expedition to the mystical city, Danny and his parents are betrayed by his father’s business partner, resulting in Danny being orphaned at K’un-L’un. There, he is trained in the ways of a warrior, culminating in a fight with a mystical dragon that endows him with mystical powers, making his hands incredibly powerful weapons. Donning a ceremonial costume, Danny becomes the superhero Iron Fist – often partnered with Luke Cage in the group “Heroes for Hire.”
In the case of the Iron Fist Netflix series, BMD’s Devin Faraci reports that Marvel has been taking multiple pitches from different creative teams regarding how to approach the show, with the primary point of contention being the character’s mystical powers and origin.
Daredevil approached street-level Marvel heroes in a very grounded way, presenting Matt Murdock’s superhuman abilities as something akin to a blind martial arts master (i.e., extraordinary but not impossible). However, in that same show, there were also hints of Marvel mysticism (ninjas, old lady martial arts masters, a drug bearing Iron Fist’s enemy Steel Serpent’s logo on its label…), so it’s clear where Marvel wants to take things. The questions are: how fast to get there, and what’s the best way?
Let’s Get Mystical… Mystical…
The biggest criticism of the Daredevil series was that the climatic superhero vs. super villain battle was the least engaging part of the show; fans had a clear preference for the more grounded exploration of a vigilante in black clothing. Meanwhile, on the movie side, 2016 presents a big challenge as Marvel tries to incorporate mysticism and magic into their universe full-on, with the release of Doctor Strange. That film will have a similar challenge as Thor in front of it: selling the idea of a “real-world” where magic (or cosmic beings) is an everyday occurrence.
Once that door is opened, how mystical abilities are filtered into the rest of the MCU remains to be seen; however, after films like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy opened the cosmos of the MCU to fans, a “grounded” spy show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. found a way to put that extraterrestrial mythos to interesting (and effective) use. So maybe Iron Fist is poised to do much the same, in perfect coordination with Doctor Strange’s debut. Since Doctor Strange is rumored to appear in Iron Fist at some point, the connection between the two seems pretty clear.
Grounded Still Works
Marvel would do well to remember that fans were more engaged in seeing how Matt Murdock evolved from nameless vigilante into the hero known as Daredevil more so than seeing the finished version of the hero. Danny Rand’s evolution into Iron Fist is a story that is ripe for extension into a long-form narrative, if we take time to examine key elements of the character. For example:
- A good portion of the season focused on his training at K’un-L’un.
- How he tries to bring his martial arts training into a modern urban setting (eg., early vigilante mistakes).
- His past with his parents, and the reasoning for his dad’s obsession with K’un-L’un.
- The tragic trek to K’un-L’un that got his parents killed.
- The larger mystic/martial arts mythos that will tie back to Daredevil, and introduce the Iron Fist villain(s).
- How he comes to befriend Luke Cage (presuming we don’t see Iron Fist introduced in the Luke Cage Netflix series, first).
The truth here is that Iron Fist is almost too close to a show like Arrow at this point, now that The CW’s flagship superhero series has explored ideas of mysticism and ancient cities where orders of ninja assassins hang out. Keeping Iron Fist’s mystical abilities seems like a no-brainer, even if the mysticism is kept to a minimum in season 1 (focus on training and practical martial arts, with the iron fist powers held back as some big reveal or turning point).
But distinguishing the show in the same way as Daredevil is going to be more about cracking the code of Danny Rand’s journey and its thematic richness, than deciding on comic book powers (or the character’s ethnicity, which is another issue referenced in BMD‘s report). The story of a man (maybe a fish-out-of-water type who looks like Ryan Phillippe) who is training in an ancient mystic city to hit harder than any other man on earth has loads of potential; here’s hoping that Marvel figures out the right approach to realize that potential.
Daredevil is currently available on Netflix. AKA Jessica Jones releases this fall followed by Luke Cage and Daredevil season 2 in 2016. Iron Fist is still currently in development.